Hey Bonnie —

I was reading your archives today before getting ready to self-tape a little self-submission when I had an epiphany about something I seem to be struggling with as an actor. I wonder if other actors might struggle with this as well, or perhaps experienced actors might have some advice for a new-to-film kiddo like me, especially as it applies to self-taping and prepping at home.

The issue: I have spent my life in the theatre. When it comes to acting prep in the stage life, there is a lot of ritual involved in getting a character off the ground. From auditions to rehearsals to performance. You sit in the audition room and feed off the nervous and exited energy of everyone around you and then step on stage to deliver your take to the auditors. If you land the role, you of course will do some work at home, but largely it is done in sacred rehearsal space. You exhaust yourself and invigorate yourself nightly for weeks, until it is ready. Then performance rituals kick in — walking into your dressing room, fixing your hair and makeup, wearing the same costumes repeatedly, warming up as a cast before the show, feeling the audience’s energy from the wings….

After coming from that, I find it hard to create that sort of energy in a self-tape. Somehow the environment in my home always feels somewhat sterile. Any actors have experience with how to raise the stakes when you are sitting at the same table you eat your oatmeal and talking to the same device you Facetime your mom with?


Hilary, thanks for this great, detailed question. I’d like to suggest that you shift from the mindset of “getting from point A to point Z” to, instead, “getting from point A to point M and then to point Z” for this.

Point A is how you’ve always done it. It’s the theatrical experience. It has a load of interactivity and emotion and friskiness that you crave. Awesome.

Point Z is this self-taped audition in the quiet, sterile, lonely environment that has none of the theatrical experience stirred in at all. Got it.

Point M, however, is this space between. You’ve attended in-person auditions for on-camera projects, yes? You’ve had stage auditions take place NOT in the exact conditions you’ve described, right? You’ve had to bring it, standing on your mark in a sparsely-furnished casting room before, with none of that fun “theatre energy” to speak of. And you’ve found a way to get there.

You have to! I mean, the nerves do kick in, no matter where your auditions take place, so you *do* know this feeling. You’re just not conditioned to have it rush in naturally, in Point Z circumstances.

So, just like when you embody a role that is foreign to your life experiences, you do your homework to study up on what elements you need to bring to life to make your audience go on the journey with you. Same with the casting process.

Rather than comparing your very thoroughly experienced Point A casting process (live, on stage) with the completely new Point Z casting process (alone, with your iPhone), hit the midpoint of the session with a reader and a casting assistant. That’s Point M and it’s gonna get you closer, because it’ll remind you that you *do* know how to audition in circumstances different from your beloved Point A style castings.

Spend some time watching audition footage on YouTube. Just dive in and keep watching each next suggested vid that showcases a beloved actor doing a screentest and other on-camera auditions for performances we know well. You’ll begin to pick up on technique for bringing material to life, even in completely unnatural circumstances, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to practice self-taped auditions that aren’t really auditions.

Meaning, grab sides from Showfax, fire up your webcam, and shoot something daily. A page or two. Every day. Watch the vids back. Get good at seeing what you have in common with the actors you saw in your deep dive over at YouTube and what you need to work on. And keep working at it.

It’s not just the energy of the stage that lights you up when you audition; it’s that you’ve done that MORE than anything else. So start doing more of what you know you’re going to be asked to do a lot of (self-taping, auditioning on-camera, bringing a character to life NOT on a stage in front of an audience) and get better at it just by continuing to work the muscle.

And yes, of course, if any of the glorious readers of my weekly column here have any advice to share, I’ll absolutely feature their goodness in a future edition. 🙂 Rock on, Hilary! You’ve got this.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001928.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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